Should we really bother?

There is a news item in today’s newspaper that Twitter had suspended the Twitter account of Amul for some time, yesterday. The reason was that the above advertisements did not fit into the policies of Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are two mediums which have become popular as social media apps. There are many differences in traditional media and these new social media apps. Unless we understand the differences, it will be difficult to understand the impact of specific policies and decisions. I am not sure if the image below reflects the correct media status.


Creation and dissemination of content done by traditional Media are based on the principle of one-to-many. An editor decides what news, which news reports should be published in the day’s newspaper or which stories should be telecast in the next bulletin is. The news consumers that is the readers and viewers have no role to play in the creation or dissemination of content.

Social Media, in contrast, is a media that works on the principle of many-to-many. Any individual can create and share content. It makes the content creation process more democratic.

Focus or purpose of social media is a media where people come to interact with friends, relatives, acquaintances etc. It need not be news-based. A tiny part of the Social Media universe is devoted to the creation or dissemination of news.

Traditional media is primarily a news media. It has traditionally performed the function of gathering and disseminating news, and continues to do so.

That is why the two media are like chalk and cheese.

Interactivity: Social Media allows users to comment on content created by their friends, relatives or peer group. No Big Brother is watching you. All comments are in real-time. They enrich published content and empower people to share views.

Traditional media is tightly controlled. All communication is one-way: from the editor to the readers. The most that a reader can hope is to get a letter published in the Letters column of the newspaper. There is no guarantee as to how much of the message will be edited before it is published. This interactivity is even more limited in the case of television.

I will share with you an interesting story about two news items published in Pune’s Daily Sakal. These stories are from the late ’80s of the last century. Two professors from the Fergusson college had fought in the college, yes it was physical slapping and all. Sakal published it on the first page with their names. The reason was one of the professors had an affair with the others’ wife. There was another news on the same page; another “Maramari” (fisty cuff) that took place in a washroom area of a Latif’s restaurant in the camp area. The fight was between two ex mayors of the city. One of them was drunk and passed lewd remarks about the other person’s wife. Now both these items were on the first page of Sakal with biggish headlines. Both news items had become public since a police case was registered in both cases. But the names of the ex mayors were not printed. I saw this anomaly and as a naïve person wrote a letter to the editor of Sakal. I said, “Both these news items were in the public domain, but you have published the names of the professors but not of the ex mayors. Since you call yourself a fearless newspaper, at least publish my letter.” I dropped the letter in their letterbox. That was the end of the story. So much for the fearlessness!

Speed: Social Media is instant. Reports published on Social Media sites can be accessed instantly.

Traditional media takes time to disseminate information. In the case of newspapers, this is limited to once a day; television or radio can update reports more frequently. But they cannot match the speed of Social Media unless they go live.

Why so?

Cost of creation: It costs a small fortune to set up a newspaper, radio or television station. Few individuals can, therefore, hope to become publishers.

Social Media platforms allow free posting of content. Anyone can, therefore, become a publisher or broadcaster.

Reach and numbers: The reach of Social Media is staggering. It connects billions of individuals across the globe.

In contrast, the reach of traditional media is limited to the number of readers or viewers that individual newspapers or channels may have.

Now that we have understood the similarities and difference, we can understand the issues involved.

A couple of events occurred in the last couple of weeks on Tweeter. Tweeter marked one of the tweets by President Trump with a caution note. As expected, Trump and his team were furious.

Twitter highlighted two of Trump’s tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, appending a message the company has introduced to combat misinformation and disputed or unverified claims.

“Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” read the message beneath each tweet. It linked to a curated fact-check page the platform had created filled with further links and summaries of news articles debunking the assertion.

Twitter said the move was aimed at providing “context” around Trump’s remarks. But Twitter’s unprecedented decision has raised further questions about its willingness to apply the label to other Trump tweets consistently. The tweets have been deemed misleading by third parties, particularly as the president has lobbed baseless allegations against former Rep. Joe Scarborough regarding the death of a congressional staffer years ago.

Does this mean that all Tweets published by Trump before were with no issues? He has 55 million followers on Tweeter, and he is using Tweeter for keeping in touch with his electorate and followers. He and his team have understood the dynamics of the Tweeter handle so well that he has milked it to his advantage.

But what happened suddenly to the dynamics between Tweeter and Trump’s team? Why did the labelling suddenly start? Let me tell you how the “labelling” or the locking of accounts is done. They have an algorithm to track the content of what people write. The policy is decided by the “management” or in this case of Dorsey- Twitter boss! Dorsey has said in an interview that he thinks left of centre about the world. Trump is a showcase right-winger always discretely talking of white supremacy. What took so long for Dorsey to change Twitter policies? Now, do you understand why Twitter locked the account of Amul? It was about discretely pushing Indian products as against the Chinese ones. After all, Amul is our most reliable brand, so why not? And it was not about politics. But then the algorithm is a tool written by a company and by a group of people. Naturally, it has its leanings; in the current case to the left!

But should we bother so much about Twitters and Facebooks of this world? They only publish whatever you and I write; they do not have their views. The algorithm does what it is told to do- and it is created to push Dorsey’s views. But Zuckerberg is even worse. He is endorsing Trumps’ views by not saying or doing anything about Trumps’ vitriolic statements or is behaving like Daily Sakal! When Facebook has so much power, their “not saying anything” against Trump is as good as endorsing it! The latest news is that FB has finally removed Trump’s campaign video where he is trying to use “Floyd” protests to advantage- on one side he is calling the army and wants to crush the demonstrations!

Should we really bother about Twitter and FB? I do not think so! These apps are not the creators of news like Newspapers and TV channels. These are used by you and me to share our views. But apps have a responsibility, and writing algorithms is their prerogative, and these will be decided by company policy! They are NOT creating false news, but anybody can try to create false interpretations or views of real matters. Trump’s video is an attempt to create content on Twitter! So who cares? But newspapers and TV have to care. As per the current trend, the advertisements are getting diverted to social media, print and TV media better be careful.

 




The Times are a-changing! 

There is no grammatical error in the title. Times are a changing is an idiom which was written this way during the 16th century. In some areas of the world, such usage of language is still in vogue! I thought this usage is lyrical 🙂🙂.

Today’s difficult times have never been faced by humanity, ever. The second world war was the last major calamity faced by us, where there was colossal death and destruction. After the war, there have been problems which were much more manageable. Till the beginning of 2020, there was unprecedented growth, poverty alleviation and technological changes. Rate of change in technology has been at breakneck speed in the last twenty years. The post-war period started with two global superpowers, then only one superpower, and then 9/11 happened. The event led to many wars limited to smaller areas. First globalisation occurred in human history during this period, but in recent times even larger countries are looking inwards. Now the whole world is locked down! So nations and people have no choice but to work together, again.

The times are seriously changing because of the lockdown. Things are happening, which we would have never expected to happen. Who would have thought that there will be many online courses available pro bono? Do you know who are offering these courses? Harvard, Oxford and others. BookMyShow is offering bookings for programmes being streamed by NCPA (National Centre of Performing Arts in Bombay) of orchestras and many such events. New York Times is offering four weeks subscription for free- okay it is not free, but it is Rs.100/ for four weeks. It is cheaper than the per month price of Times of India and Sakal print copy. Many organisations and people have realised that the current times need different thinking and solutions. Those who can work from home are busy, but there are many people whose jobs are such that they can’t work from home. In India, Door Darshan has released old popular series like Ramayan, Mahabharat and Circus to other channels too, no charges of course. BCCI has released the rights for famous Cricket matches for re telecast so that people can handle the free time available, better. This free time as per my guestimate will continue up to six weeks and likely to extend further. My judgment tells me that it will remain in areas like Pune-Mumbai area even longer.

I feel that people, in general, are always good; they do not get the opportunities to display their goodness or they are too busy! Companies in India are rising to the challenge. I am collating the data of this goodness juice flowing in our society. In such times of lockdown, it is easy to get depressed. I am accumulating a goodness pot that will help us feel good.

A company in Rajkot, Gujarat developed a ventilator in record time. They have decided to donate their first thousand products to the Gujarat government. Mr Ratan Tata donated Rs 1500/ crores to the government’s efforts to fight the pandemic. There are many smaller donations of different denominations flowing into various funds from all quarters. Mahindra & Mahindra put in their efforts and converted their manufacturing facilities to manufacture ventilators, masks and sanitisers. They have also offered Club Mahindra resorts for conversion to temporary hospitals. Besides that, they are supporting many kitchens to give food to stranded migrants.

It reminds me of the reverse migration phenomenon, especially in northern India. Lacs of workers responded to rumours when the first lockdown was declared. As there was no transport available, they simply started walking towards their native place, some a thousand Km away from where they were working. The authorities realised this in a couple of days. They swung into actions and started providing them with food at different locations on the way. Then they coordinated about two thousand buses to help these people to reach home, for free. We talk of going back to roots after spending a lifetime in different states and nations. But I never realised that this urge is so strong.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah%27s_Ark

That reminds me of Noah’s Ark, the mythical vessel from western mythology. It finds reference in Christian, Jewish literature and is referred to in the Quran as  Safina Nuh! It is the biblical story of a global flood which was supposed to drown the whole world; God saved Noah and others by providing the vessel. Our Noah’s Ark would be our discipline and social distancing.

I had never understood the real meaning of lockdown until my daughter Priya told me a story. She lives in Montreal with her family, and they are also under lockdown. Her daughter Rhea, she is 6 ½, could not go out for a long time since her school closed. Add to this the Montreal winter. The people in Montreal have understood the meaning of lockdown now. So, there is nobody on the roads. Priya and her family live in leafy lanes. Priya took Rhea out for ten minutes, and the spring is just starting. Rhea was so thrilled and happy; she was dancing all the time, and Priya felt that it was as if Rhea was walking on the lovely lane for the first time! I am sure Jaya will also feel the same when the lockdown is over. In our home too, only I have ventured out once or twice in the whole last month.

Another great thing is now one can talk to friends as much as we want. Nobody says that she is busy. If someone does not pick up the phone, now reasons are different. “Oh, I was doing pocha, or I was washing the utensils.” That brings me to the thoughts about how these difficult times have finally made us appreciate the importance of the service providers like maids, cooks, drivers, dhobis. Some of us have treated them not so elegantly. I hope we do it in future. These are simple people and are trying to earn their living. Sometimes they make mistakes, but a few people maltreat them. Please never disrespect anybody, help them to retain their honour and dignity. I want to share their difficulties. Our dhobi called us the other day for his bill plus Rs 2000/ advance. I transferred the money right away. But their requirements are really minimal. When the maid does the floor wiping, we don’t even see what type of mop she is using. Now that we need to do this work, we look for a mop with a handle so that we can do the work while standing- more efficient? But why don’t we provide this to the maid?

As usual, there are good things and bad things, but I hope that the good acts will prevail; and the world will become a much better place after the emergency is over because of the lessons that we are learning. A small percentage of people are breaking the rules, but one bad thing that always comes out even in tough times is the naming and shaming of sects. During the plague of the 16th century, the Jews were less affected due to their cleaner lifestyle. People hounded the Jews in Europe, and many were killed. Jews moved to eastern Europe. During the second world war, the same thing was repeated because the Jews were affluent and had different ways. In Delhi, a similar incident took place against a sect who were stupid and behaved idiotically. The large congregation caused the spread of disease rapidly. But public hounding continues.

Will the changing times bring in the changes? Will society change for the better? For some, this lockdown period is a significant survival struggle, but for many like you and me, it is time for introspection. I feel that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for humans to do the course correction. Let us hope for the best.

World Cup 2019 Jamboree! The Human Side!

I was not going to include the cricketing aspect in this blog, but India’s unexpected loss in the semi-final needs to be mentioned.

Jaya and I should have been in England by now like we travelled to Melbourne in 2015 for the world cup Cricket final. But that was not to be for reasons beyond control! But I am not writing about the game. I am writing about various things that happen on the side which I came to know more because of the social media! Yes, social media is great if you use it with discretion! The commercial side, of course, has been taken over by Indian Companies! Bira, MRF, Booking.com to name a few!

One thing is for sure; the game has been taken over by Asians! India, Pakistan, Bangala Desh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Though only India is in semi-finals. We Indians love festivals and watching a cricket match in the stadiums has been converted into a celebration.

There has been a tradition of drinking Beer while watching the matches in other countries. So, who is the official sponsor of the Beer sold this year? Bira is an Indian company; only their Beer can be sold inside the stadiums! There is an aside to this. The deal between the company and ICC was such that the price of Beer to Customers would have been steep. ICC/ECB jointly subsidised the sale by British Pounds five hundred thousand. Just imagine how much Beer must be sold during the matches.  Then, of course, you have Kabab Stalls, Biryani and Samosa stalls in large numbers to cater to the Asian spectators. (They are all referred to as Desis!) The tickets for the matches where desi teams are taking part are bought mainly by desis; we see some locals also watching the games. Believe me, these matches are held right in the interior of England, but the number of desis present in the stadiums was unbelievable.

There has been a tradition, in England, of a group called Barmy Army. It is a group of Britishers who travel all over the world to cheer the British teams in Football and Cricket matches. On the same lines, a group is created by Indians called, what else, Bharat Army. For Bharat wasis, one more festival gets added to their repertoire! So how do they celebrate? They came together and met the ICC. They discussed with ICC a deal. Two packages of four matches each. All ticket sales were online. So the deal was they would get to buy 11000 tickets. They would be given a slightly higher priority than the general public in the buying pyramid. The ICC made a deal that international travel, local travel from city to city and hotel stay will be handled by Bharat army. The ticket buyers have to become a member of the Bharat Army group. They are required to use at least one of the three facilities offered. Bharat Army has hired five buses on a captive basis to travel inter-city. No doubt that cricket has been taken over by Asian spectators.  One person from Ahemdabad asked his 25 family members to join the army. They all applied for tickets and were allotted one ticket. Only our friend wanted to see the matches! Indian Juggad?

In the review before the semi-final, English cricketer Graeme Swan was asked about the atmosphere near the Old Trafford Stadium. He said, “I have already seen two New Zealand supporters and about 25000 Indian supporters. I also understand that there are about five thousand Indian supporters who did not get the tickets for the match. They are going to spin around the stadium in their cars, honking loudly, to support their team.”

Human3Human2

Charulata Patel story is the fairy tale story of this world cup. Eighty-seven years young Charulata was born and brought up in Kenya and moved to England. There is a saying that Indians will move out of India, but you cannot move India out of the Indians. Charulata had ancestors from India and must have visited India a few times, but she never lived there. But the way she and her family were supporting India in India’s match against Sri Lanka. It was a sight to behold! She came to the ground on a wheelchair, and her enthusiasm must have been infectious. She was blowing a home-made trumpet and clapping every good event. At the end of the match, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma had the magnanimity to go and meet her and talk to her. Virat showed a nice gesture and gave her two tickets each for the semi-final and the finals. That India lost in the semi-final is an unfortunate part.

Human1

In the image above, Jadeja is gesturing to Manjrekar after completing whirlwind 50!

Social media creates some unusual situations. Sanjay Manjrekar commented that he is not comfortable with having bits and pieces player like Jadeja in the team, on Twitter. Jadeja did not like it at all and replied to him, “I have played double the number of matches that you have played, and I am still playing in the team. Respect people.” The next day Manjrekar predicted that Jadeja would be in the playing eleven. Ex English captain Michael Vaughn pulled his leg saying how come bits and pieces man is in your team. In the match, Jadeja bowled, fielded and batted very well! Vaughn pulled his leg again asking Manjrekar, “Hey the bits and pieces player can bat, bowl and field well! What say you!” Manjrekar blocked Vaughn on the Twitter! Manjrekar next day praised Jadeja but with an emoji! The emoji indicated that it was not wholehearted praise!

How did people and newspapers react to India’s unexpected defeat? In most cases, the reaction was sensible and supporting the Indian team. Most people accepted the fact that after playing very well all through the tournament, yesterday was not Indian teams day. There have to be exceptions to this. ABP asked Harsha Bhogale whether he can take part in a program “Who was responsible for the defeat?” He advised them ” Please don’t do such a program.” But the worst of the lot was Marathi newspaper, Sakal.

http://product.sakaalmedia.com/portal/SM.aspx?ID=142726

It was in poor taste. They printed photos of Rohit, Rahul, Kohli, Pandya, Pant and Dhoni.

Their captions were stupid, to say the least. Since we all know how our team has performed in world cup 2019, you may draw your own conclusions.

Rohit: Hitman-Flopman

Rahul: Finally no show

Virat: Virat  (Major) Failure

Pandya: False Diamond

Pant: Irresponsible

Dhoni: Failed in doing the Impossible

Kartik: Wasted Chances

For any cricket tournament, India is a significant market as Indians are absolutely fanatic about Cricket. Star Sports has the feed in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bangla, Marathi for the Indian market, besides English. The unfortunate side effect of major Indian support is that in the second semi-final between England and Australia, there are many empty seats at Birmingham. This is because initially it was expected that India will play the semi-final in Birmingham and many places were booked by Indians. They, for obvious reasons, have not turned up today!

As I write this, England was cruising to a comfortable victory against Australia! (They have won) So finally, the champion will be a team who has never won the world cup before! Your prediction for the final? Mine is England!